Not getting promoted when you feel like you deserve it is a very difficult position. The problem is so vague. Did you get passed over because you aren’t good enough at your job, didn’t impress the right people, aren’t visible enough in the company, because you work remotely, or was it some combination of these factors? In most situations you will never know.
Getting promoted as an individual contributor
When you are trying to get promoted there is a big difference between being promotion to a more senior postion and being promoted to a management position. If you were hired as a junior team member and want to be promoted to a senior one the solution is simple: do the job of a senior contributor and make sure the rest of your team knows it.
Doing the job is up to you and it doesn’t change because you work remotely. Look at the senior members of your team. Are they taking on more responsibility than you? Are they more proactive about solving problems or designing larger solutions? Use them as a model and try to work like them.
Making sure the rest of your team knows what a good job you are doing is a two step process: do an good job and brag about it. Bragging has a bad reputation. Has anyone ever told you to be humble and wait for other people to notice you? It is really bad advice.
Bragging is important in the office too, but you probably do it without thinking about it. You talk about what you are working on at the lunch table or in the hallways. You call friends over and show them something you just figured out how to do. You need to do the same thing remotely. Go out of your way to show your team what you are working on and why you feel good about your work. Excitement is contagious.
Getting promoted to management
You are already doing the job of an individual contributor so getting promoted to a more senior one is relatively simple. Your current performance already proves that you can be an effective telecommuter. Getting promoted to a remote manager is much more difficult.
Many managers worry that telecommuters are more difficult to manage. Letting you manage remotely applies this concern to everyone you might manage. Apply a try before you buy solution. Ask for an opportunity to be a team leader. Take on a small project with a short time frame. Make it clear that you understand it is just a trial and there won’t be any hard feelings if it doesn’t work out.
The key is to show that you can manage people remotely in a situation with very little risk. Make the project work well and you will resolve a lot of the doubts about your ability to manage remotely.